When election workers emerged from their cluttered office at 8:14 p.m. to announce the initial results for the Missoula Municipal Election, members of the media, and about two dozen University of Montana journalism students snapped to attention, quickly grabbing spreadsheets the workers handed out.
Ward 3 Councilman Bob Jaffe immediately ducked into a hallway of the Missoula County Courthouse to relay the numbers to interested parties. Reporters and students scribbled notes quickly.
Amongst all this brouhaha stood only one active candidate, Ward 6’s Ed Childers. And he liked what he saw—a lead.
“It’s better to be ahead than behind,” he said.
The numbers for his opponent, Lewie Schneller, improved as the night moved forward, but Childers never fell behind, winning his third term by a small margin.
Downstairs, Ward 5 candidate Christine Prescott sat with a look of frustration on her face as she trailed Renee Mitchell, the eventual winner. Jason Weiner of Ward 1 held an insurmountable lead over Justin Armintrout, and had every reason to celebrate, but he contained his enthusiasm.
Ward 4 Councilman Jerry Ballas, trailing challenger Lyn Hellegaard, paced up and down the second floor hallway while several members of Forward Montana, a progressive political organization, joked around in front of the county clerk’s office. As it became clear Hellegaard would unseat Ballas, an architect for the University of Montana, he wise-cracked, “At least we [UM] got a good bid on the stadium expansion today.”
Ward 2 incumbent Don Nicholson’s night didn’t fare much better. After the first numbers showed him leading, he smiled broadly and chatted with friends. But later tallies showed Ward 2 going against him, and when his lead over Pam Walzer evaporated he announced the he was going home and going to bed.
At 10:04 when word went out at Red’s Bar that Walzer had taken the lead, she did a dance best described as looking exactly like someone having a seizure while fleeing a fire. In other words: the dance of pure joy.
Ward 3’s Stacy Rye also clinched her win over Doug Harrison late in the evening. “It’s a great feeling, being that two hours ago I was downing Maalox,” she said proudly.
At 11 p.m., when the last results for the night rolled in, glasses were raised, smiles were shared. Walzer’s victory over Nicholson will probably shift control of Council to the progressive bloc, but we won’t know for sure until January, when the new Council members take office.